DairyLeaders Forum

Published 21 November 14

This video delivers a brief showcase of the DairyLeaders Forum event, giving an overview of the day and the topics that were covered.

It includes comments from the event's Chair and DairyCo Board Member Peter Nicholson, as well as key messages from some of the events speakers. Farmers Weekly Awards Dairy Farmer of the Year 2014 winner Robert Craig also shares his view of the day.


From your feedback, our DairyLeaders Forum on 8 October seems to have achieved the aim of both challenging you and stimulating new thinking.

Alongside comments such as: “Very good and informative day and great to have the opportunity to be surrounded by positive, like-minded people” and “…the event far exceeded my expectations”, we’ve also had feedback about how we can further improve the content of what we deliver through the DairyLeader programme.

Here are reminders of some of the most memorable messages from the day.

Jane King & Robert Craig - Be on the winning side >
Donald Moore - 
Hot topics on the global dairy growth agenda >
Oliver Hall - 
Bringing Lean to Life >
Tim Bean - Healthy body, healthy business >


Be on the Winning Side

Jane KingWhat makes a winner, a leader, an innovator? This question has been explored for nearly 10 years by the judges of the Farmers Weekly Awards, and editor Jane King outlined the telling signs of a top achiever.

“It starts with figures – as obvious as it sounds, these top operators who have won awards in the past know their costs and their income, and have a clear strategy to stretch that margin,” she explained. “That’s likely to include adding value to existing enterprises and using resources more efficiently.”

She said some winners took more risks than others, but all were attentive about managing that risk and knew the full extent of their exposure. “They have a healthy dose of objectivity about their business and how it can be improved. There’s a transparency and accountability about their approach, and they are invariably positive about the future. They are prepared to challenge and change themselves, and take constructive criticism and advice. Far from diminishing their status, they see this as enhancing it.”

Jane said the hunger for information shone through; this often involved taking time away from the farm to find out what like-minded farmers, competitors and the wider industry further up the supply chain and abroad, were doing.

But above all these aspects, she said, the winners knew they couldn’t do it on their own – they placed huge value on having the right team. “They are fair employers and good leaders of people – they want to recruit, train and hang on to the best staff they can. This is critical as the farming industry starts to get to grips with modern employment practices.”

Robert Craig from Dolphenby Farm in Cumbria, winner of the Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year 2014 award along with his business partner Steve Brandon,  echoed many of Jane’s points. Robert said their building the 550-cow enterprise from scratch has relied on creating a superb team.

CraigHe said: “This year, we got Dolphenby to the stage where we were really happy with the performance. What underpins the success is the team. Steve and I have never milked a single cow there – we don’t need to. We’ve somehow managed to inspire the lads, and the team really is quite exceptional.”

The difference between managers and leaders in achieving these exceptional results was examined by Promar’s David Cooke, who led a session on success. He explained that first of all, we had to know what success was.

“We can use some simple indicators – for example, is your profit as a percentage of your turnover high or low? Has it improved in the past three years or not? Has there been a growth in net worth? And is the system in control or is it stressed?

“Success can be anything you want it to be, but you need to be clear what it is.”
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Secondly, he said, you decide your role in getting there. Is your style manager or leader? “Good managers can plan budgets, promote change and organise people – they do things right.

Good leaders chart a course and design change; they focus on people and build teams. Alongside  doing things right, they do the right things and inspire hope in the process.”

He said that either way, the important thing was to surround yourself with people who had complementary skill sets, and not to accept the status quo.

“Listen to and eliminate concerns, and motivate staff to perform by encouraging and rewarding. Good leaders aren’t afraid to show the way, make difficult decisions, and admit mistakes or change direction. They include others’ views and opinions but they also aren’t afraid to deal with poor performance.”

There are number of workshops and courses run periodically in this area. Click on the DairyCo events page, or contact Rachael Chamberlayne on rachael.chamberlayne@dairyco.ahdb.org.uk to register your interest and to hear of other workshops from further training providers.

Fancy a shot at the 2015 Farmers Weekly Awards? Nominations are now open http://awards.fwi.co.uk/nominate/

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Hot topics on the global dairy growth agenda

Set up eight years ago by the world’s biggest dairy companies to focus on areas of benefit to the whole dairy industry, Global Dairy Platform has several hot topics on its agenda, explained chief executive Donald Moore.

“There’s no doubt the global trend for dairy is up. The recent spikes [downwards], in global commodity pricing aside, I believe we are looking at long range pricing of $2,500-$3,000/tonne for dairy products, up from the long-range historical average of around $2,000.

Moore“Underpinning this, is long-term population growth – not in China but in Africa and other parts of the world – and increased affluence, with middle class incomes starting at around $10 per day.

This is important, because when a mother hits this point, where she has discretionary money to spend, she wants to buy high quality nutrition; dairy is such a rich source of nutrients, it’s often looked upon as having medicinal properties.”

However, Donald said challenges did remain, such as the United Nations’ recent statement on the rise in non-communicable diseases. “They calculate a combination of poor diet, inactivity, tobacco and alcohol are now responsible for 60% of deaths worldwide, in particular cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disease and cancers,” he said.

“Furthermore, it estimates around 80% of deaths from these chronic diseases are preventable and they have called for a 25% reduction in mortality from these cases by 2025.”

He said that because the financial burden of chronic disease to nations is significant – estimated at over 6% of various countries’ Gross Domestic Product – efforts to curb obesity, a leading risk factor for chronic disease, are seen to be of the utmost importance on a global scale. However, the challenge isn’t so much in tackling this, but how it’s tackled.

“Tasked with addressing this, the World Health Organisation has identified reductions in sodium and fat as key targets, which is a blunt instrument and has the potential to disproportionately affect dairy products.”

This was just one of the so-called ‘megaforces’ Donald said were shaping the future of dairy, others being land use, water scarcity and sustainable diets. But despite the need to keep defending dairy, the global dairy agenda was increasingly looking at proactive opportunities for dairy to feed the world.

“The latest buzzwords are about nutritional security, sustainability and ‘chain integrity’, by which we mean the safety and provenance of food. A scare such as melamine means the whole industry catches a cold, and that’s why improving technology capacity across the world is pre-competitive. If we work together with emerging nations to make sure they look after the reputation of dairy, that’s worth a lot to everyone.

“Alongside this, we are positioning dairy as a solution to key challenges facing society,” concluded Donald. “Some NGOS and world organisations are now seeing this, the FAO has published a great report on dairy products and human nutrition, WWF has included dairy at 14% of a ‘UK live well’ diet and another FAO report, in conjunction with IFCN and WWF, is now looking at the valuable economic role played by dairying around the world.”

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Bringing Lean to Life

HallIn the last issue, we reported on the revolutionary Lean management concept; at the forum, Oliver Hall, co-founder and co-owner of Evolution Farming, which runs four dairy units and a consultancy business in the north of England, explained how he used Lean principles with his clients.

“Lean is primarily about eliminating waste and maximising value,” said Oliver. “A typical Lean model is like an iceberg, you have the front-facing parts of the business – the cows, tools, techniques and the processes for how you do things and deliver your product – and the underneath are the things that enable the reduction in waste and the increase in value: strategy, leadership, behaviour and engagement.” Recap on Lean management >

He said a typical approach would be to look at how the business could get rid of any activities that didn’t add value, and potentially increased output while maintaining inputs, or maintained outputs while reducing inputs. Ways to do this could be identified with a number a different tools.

“Having performance meetings, reviewing good quality KPI data is the most common,” said Oliver. “It needn’t be complicated – milk sold that day, quality, how many cows in herd, in tank, inseminations, culling and loss rates and so on.

“Also, standardising best practice through the development of standard operating procedures – but involve the team in creating these so they are bought into them. Waste walks are where you simply walk the shop floor – aka the farm – and look for areas where no value is being added. Root cause analyses are very useful if something goes wrong, to ensure it doesn’t happen again. And breaking down each process and assigning value to it can help you see whether some less profitable activities are absorbing a disproportionate amount of resources.”

He said he firmly believed there was an economic ‘sweet spot’ for every farm each year – Lean was simply a tool to help identify where that sweet spot was.

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Healthy body, healthy business

BeanIf the capacity for performance depends on the weakest element, what is the weak link in your business? This was the challenge Tim Bean, wellbeing specialist, laid in front of the audience at the forum, with the conclusion that it was most frequently the state of health of the manager or owner.

“Every day, you look at how well-nourished the cow is, what hormones she is secreting, whether she is comfortable, mobile, healthy and how her immune system is operating. How many of you can say you know how well your own body is functioning?”

Judging by the reaction, not many in the audience could, so Tim probed further; he stressed it wasn’t just about physical wellbeing.

“Poor health affects the endocrine system, which has a knock-on impact on mental state. A 40-year study in the US showed men who had a large waist measurement at age 50, were three times more likely to get dementia by age 80. A wider trunk leads to higher levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone, which reduces testosterone and has a negative effect on the immune system, insulin sensitivity and liver function.

“In short, taking care of your business means you start with taking care of yourself.”

He focused on the following elements of nutrition: 

  • Nutrient-Dense Foods – Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods (high in vitamins, nutrients, minerals and enzymes), as opposed to Nutrient-DEAD Foods (processed, refined, baked, chemically altered or otherwise denatured foods)
  • Nutrition addition and damage dilution – Add extra nutritious ingredients to everyday recipes to improve their profile, thus diluting any less-healthy ingredients per serving
  • Raw power – The difference between cooking a food and heating a food so you don't destroy the nutrients

“It’s a well-known fact that women tend to live on average seven years longer than men,” he said. “But they aren’t inherently healthier – they simply get health checks regularly and don’t hang back if they find something wrong. The biggest factor in the shorter life expectancy for men is a failure to have regular check-ups.”

For more information on Tim’s wellbeing programmes, go to www.hardedgetips.com

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